It’s 11 a.m., June 7 at the Fort Bragg Home Station Training Lanes where the 618th Engineer Support Company is completing their four-day validation training exercise.
The lane is riddled with simulated improvised explosive devices that the observer-controller 1st Lt. Jeffrey Scott Vitter hopes the Soldiers will find, but the IEDs are not his main concern.
His focus is on how well the Soldiers react to the different combat scenarios.
“We don’t expect the route clearance platoon to find every IED, we’re interested in placing these Soldiers in a variety of situations that mimic what they will encounter once deployed,” said Vitter.
The situations include finding and reacting to an IED, reacting to an IED that has gone off and damaged or disabled a vehicle, assessing casualties and conducting medical evacuations. During the training the Soldiers are using vehicles like the Husky metal detecting and marking vehicle, the Buffalo mine protected clearance vehicle and the Caiman, a mine resistant armor protected vehicle.
“The vehicles provide a more realistic approach to the training scenarios,” said Vitter.
The purpose of the training is to prepare the 618th Engineer Support Co. for its upcoming rotation at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., in August and their future deployment next spring.
“We recently received our deployment orders to transition into a route clearance company, and this is our first company training exercise as a RCP company and I’m impressed so far,” said Capt. Justin Roy, 618th Engineer Support Co. commander.
In order to prepare for their transition to a RCP company the 618th Engineer Support Co. recently attended the Route Reconnaissance and Clearance Operator Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., which lasted 10 days and according to Roy, is the reason for his unit’s success during this exercise.
“That training was very important because there are a lot of new Soldiers throughout the formation,” said Roy.
”Those new Soldiers are now operating the vehicles and inside the turret manning weapons; they’ve made vast improvements.”
One new Soldier, Pvt. William Tompkins, the company intelligence advisor, has only been in the unit for two months and this was his first day the in the field with the unit.
“This is not what I pictured mentally,” said Tompkins, 25. “I thought that we would be looking for IEDs and performing route clearance procedures, but there many different scenarios such as evaluating casualties – I wasn’t expecting that.”
In addition to giving the Soldiers field experience, this training event allows the commander to assess his Soldiers.
”I’m looking for strengths and weaknesses,” said Roy. “I want to know if they can identify the IEDs, operate the equipment and ensure we’re sticking to our tactics, techniques and procedures. In this type of environment you find your natural born leaders.
Although the Soldiers of the 618th Engineer Support Co. have performed well during the training exercise, there is still more work to be done to better prepares these Soldiers for their deployment.
“There are still more ranges and other task that must be completed before they are ready,” said Roy. “But, this is a good start.”